Joe Dunthorne, I’m sorry.
I first came across you in Alex Clark’s list of authors who might be in the Granta 2013 list of best young British authors, featured in the Observer. I don’t buy the Observer often and it is even less common for me to read the New Review section but I did this time. I saw the list of 20 or so writers and set myself a reading project.
Before my son was born last year and since then, space has been at a premium in our rented flat. We’ve been throwing a lot of things away and trying to make space for a whole new person. By and large we’ve succeeded.
Books have been heavy casualties of our quest for more space. And since then we’ve tried to maintain a one-in, one-out policy.
So seeing this list of authors led me to my local library. There I discovered that lots of London borough libraries have joined together in one big consortium.
So these days by logging onto the libraries website I can reserve books from across most of London. Which is great.
I got to work straight away and somehow found lots of time to start reading again. My partner has been reading too. I’ve been working my way through Alex Clark’s list. Though the order has been more about how quickly the library system delivers books up to me than about any other kind of order. And I soon discovered that I could only have 12 books on order at any given time.
Incidentally, I don’t know why we weren’t reading much before. I think we had assumed that as new parents we didn’t have time. Perhaps other people had said something like that. But it isn’t true. There’s loads of time for reading when you have a baby. (As long as you don’t mind sacrificing a little bit more sleep, especially when nearing the end of a novel.)
So, the scene is set.
Our child has reached the age where he likes to put anything and everything in his mouth. Especially paper. Menus, leaflets and newspapers have all been eaten.
And now books too. Mostly for-baby editions of children’s books are the victims and they’re designed to withstand eating. Paperbacks aren’t.
It was rather unfortunate that, Wild Abandon, the funniest book either of us have read for ages got into the hands of our child. It was a fluke too. We’re aware of the eating paper issue. We’ve taken steps against it. We’ve even tried putting bicycle inner tubes around our shelving to discourage small hands from pulling books out the shelves. Wild Abandon was left on an arm rest and got knocked off and forgotten about.
What’s most annoying about the whole episode is that our child didn’t have the book in his mouth for long and the three pages that got damaged don’t have any fiction in. They’re from the beginning and so they’re about Joe, copyright information and the dedication. But it was enough. The librarian at Bethnal Green was not impressed. “We can’t lend this book out again”, she said. “It’s not in a fit state. You’ll have to pay a fine.”
And so Wild Abandon by Joe Dunthorne was taken out of circulation. I had to pay £5.75 for the sadness of removing the book from the system, the most expensive food my son has eaten in his short life so far.
It’s not the end of the world for Joe, though. I’ve checked on the system and the London Libraries Consortium has another 24 copies, 23 of which are available for loan today. Which is great in one sense but a shame in another as it really is the funniest work of fiction I’ve read since I can remember and it should be read by more people.
Wild Abandon is a really good book. Laugh out loud funny and in the stay-up-late to finish it category. Jolly, light-hearted and insightful.
So I’m sorry Joe that one of your books is now out of circulation. I’m also sorry that you didn’t make the final Granta list. Wild Abandon is brilliant, much better than some of the fare on offer from some of the authors who did make the list.
Anyone want to borrow my copy of Wild Abandon? I don’t have space for it at home.